Thursday, September 13, 2007

The woods

Harlan Coben latest offering, “The woods”, uses the author’s very own tried (though not yet tired) and tested formula: a protagonist we empathise with, a mystery from the past returning to complicate the present, a dead loved one - but is she really dead?

The pacing is spot on, the dialogues brilliant and under-worded, the mystery intriguing. And yet, I couldn’t help the feeling that the book lacked a certain something that I’ve come to expect from the author: the usual gripping terror, perhaps, or a final read-through? It’s almost as though the protagonist is spared the customary torment inflicted on him by the writer. His troubles are implied more than felt, the threats never quite realised.

In a way, that’s a good thing. I’m quite content not to have my emotional guts wrenched out, twisted and beaten to pulp by a thriller.

But “The woods” is not as good as “Gone for good”, “Tell no one” or “Just one look”.

PS: The Publisher's Blurb, to make you want to read the book anyway:

Twenty years ago, four teenagers at summer camp walked into the woods at night. Two were found murdered, and the others were never seen again. Four families had their lives changed forever.

Now, two decades later, they are about to change again. For Paul Copeland, the county prosecutor of Essex, New Jersey, mourning the loss of his sister has only recently begun to subside. Cope, as he is known, is now dealing with raising his six- year-old daughter as a single father after his wife has died of cancer. Balancing family life and a rapidly ascending career as a prosecutor distracts him from his past traumas, but only for so long.

When a homicide victim is found with evidence linking him to Cope, the well-buried secrets of the prosecutor’s family are threatened.Is this homicide victim one of the campers who disappeared with his sister? Could his sister be alive? Cope has to confront so much he left behind that summer twenty years ago: his first love, Lucy; his mother, who abandoned the family; and the secrets that his Russian parents might have been hiding even from their own children.

Cope must decide what is better left hidden in the dark and what truths can be brought to the light.

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